Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Paths to Publication: Connie Ripley Lujan on Living the Good Life

I’m sure I don’t have anything new to say about writing that Chris hasn’t already told you. Chris was my first teacher in my beginners’ class with the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) correspondence course out of Connecticut. I was newly retired and looking forward to my dream of writing children’s stories when Chris got me started.

Stowaway to Antarctica, a story about a homeschooler, twelve-year-old boy, new to New Zealand schools, who is disappointed he can’t join his father on an expedition to Antarctica to search for meteorites, was exciting to write because of the research involved. I love to do research and learn new facts and understandings about nature. Figuring out the mechanics of how to stow away a twelve-year-old took many revisions to make it all believable. Creating the conflicts of being lost and suffering the consequences of his misbehavior was exciting. Being a teacher is my specialty.

Chris edited it for me and said it was a go. I was so excited. I had drawn maps of locations in Antarctica and had details and pages and references about meteorites found in Antarctica. I knew it would sell. It didn’t. I had some nice rejection letters, many with suggestions which encouraged me to revise and resubmit--which I did, for several years. I’m still looking for an agent/editor; but I did what Chris and all the good teachers tell you to do—I kept writing.

I enrolled in the advance class with the ICL and worked with Kristen Wolden Niltz, another excellent teacher. Her advice from the beginning was to write a non-fiction if I wanted something that would sell easily. She knew I was disappointed in my rejections for Stowaway. But no—I wanted to write a young adult story about young girls I had listened to with my work at STARS, (standing together against rape). And so, Evie’s Secret was born. Three, four years have passed with many dollars spent on mailings and conferences and more workshops. No one wanted it. Chris edited it and recommended revision which I worked on for three months. More time, more money, more rejections, more bad feelings.

Then I read an article in Writers Digest that, this time, hit home. Chris and Kristen had both given me the same message—write about what you know—write about what you have a passion for.  I knew, as a mother, having raised five sons, and as an educator most of my life, that children were the love of my life. I’ve always loved children. I’d die for them any day. I had found my passion.

Whom could I champion as a spirit of my devotion? I immediately thought of Marie Montessori, my mentor in child-rearing. As a Montessori teacher and follower of the Montessori Method for fifty years, I knew I could express my feelings and concern for the children through her love of the child. My soul felt akin to hers. And so I began to write—about Maria at first—then about me. I discovered I was writing a creative non-fiction which was part memoir. Three or four years later, after many edits and revisions and changes of title, Montessori—Living the Good Life was ready to be submitted. My critique group and others said it was good. 

It was ready . . . but was I? My heart and soul was in this writing. I’m seventy-six. Did I have enough years and spirit to survive the process of attempting to sell my book to someone else? How many rejections could my soul take, I asked myself? I decided the answer was none. I knew this book, Montessori-Living the Good Life, had an important message that I wanted to share with the whole world, now!

So I began to research ideas and suggestions for self-publishing. There are many choices. I found one with a discount for their top package. Then I went to my sons for help with a website: In time I will be revising my novels and writing more about Maria, but for the next year, I plan to be busy marketing—the other half of writing. I’m looking forward to conferences this year and to the 27th International Montessori Congress in July next year.

Montessori—Living the Good Life was just released in January. My publisher set-up eight social media accounts with access to author learning webinars and book consultants to advise me how to market. Along with my own website, I am keeping very busy getting my title, Montessori—Living the Good Life, and name as author, Connie Ripley Lujan, and my website address,, out to the public. I appreciate this opportunity to blog on Chris’s site. You can learn more about Montessori—Living the Good Life on my website, where there is a BUY page. You can also purchase my book online at Amazon and all the bookstores, national and international.

(A tip for you for when you start marketing your book: My sons tell me to repeat the title Montessori—Living the Good Life, and my author name, Connie Ripley Lujan, and website address,, as often as reasonably possible so that the SEO, the search engine optimizer, will trigger Google to your site more often.) J

Chris says: I love hearing about former students or critique clients who have found success. These days, success comes in many forms. Connie has found a path that makes her happy! Sadly, too many good books don’t sell traditionally. (See my guest post on Alternate Publishing: Historical Fiction, on Darcy Pattison’s blog.) This is another example of a book that might not be “big” enough to interest a large publisher, but Connie has connections with the Montessori community, so she can target her marketing. Plus, without a lot of similar books out there, anyone looking for information can find her book quickly.

Connie chose to publish her book through a packager, WestBow Press. While this typically costs more than publishing on your own (directly through Amazon’s CreateSpace, for example), Connie has been happy with their service, and this can be an option for people willing to spend a little more money in exchange for guidance and simplicity. There’s an enormous amount to learn when it comes to self-publishing and marketing!

Best of luck to you, Connie.

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